Diana Reid doesn’t usually notice if she’s the only woman in the room. During her time in business school at Darden, “As I recall, less than 10% of the class were women.” Over her 30+ year career, that percentage has changed. As have the expectations of the next generation of bankers. Recently, Diana was meeting with a younger colleague at PNC, where Diana serves as executive vice president and head of PNC Real Estate, who noted how important it was to see women in the company’s senior leadership roles, to know that management didn’t just “talk the talk” of diversity. (In fact, PNC partners with Forté Foundation to recruit women undergraduates and recent MBA grads to build female leaders at PNC.)
Becoming a Trailblazer
Diana has been a trailblazer on several fronts, having worked on new financial products in her roles at Credit Suisse and PNC. Initially, she was drawn to policy work during her college years and worked for an environmental lobby in California and as a researcher in the Massachusetts state legislature. But her interest in mathematics led her to pursue a business degree at Darden. Straight out of Darden, she joined Citicorp on a product development team working in the new area of mortgage-backed securities. She quickly earned a good reputation and was asked to join the Mortgage Trading Desk at First Boston (which later became Credit Suisse).
During nearly twenty years at Credit Suisse, Diana held several different roles. She spent time on the securities trading desk, where she enjoyed the technical aspects of analyzing and pricing mortgage products. She asked the head of the trading desk for the opportunity to take on a developing product. “That was a very important transition for me because it required a different skill set. I learned a tremendous amount, and the role played to my strengths, allowing me to analyze a complex group of loans and create a debt security that an institutional investor would want to buy. The next steps in my career are a direct result of that transition,” she recalls.
Diana’s next transition came in the early 1990s, when Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was established by the U.S. Government to manage and sell the assets of failed savings and loans. “RTC realized that it had too many assets to sell loan-by-loan, and decided to transfer those assets from government-owned to investor-owned. First Boston and several other Wall Street investment banks became involved to help the RTC figure out how to package different asset classes, including apartment loans and commercial property loans.” It was a new product born from a financial crisis. “Over my career, I have learned the most during times of crisis and change. I am a problem-solver, and those moments of crisis are new puzzles to solve.”
Success During the Financial Crisis
It was a challenging time in the financial markets, but the skills Diana had gained prepared her to take on a new role. “It was a remarkable time. I had worked in a niche product that became the answer to an industry’s challenge.” Issuance of these securities grew from less than $10 billion in 1988 to more than $80 billion in 1994. “I had not predicted that. But my boss saw the opportunity and was confident I could handle it. Sometimes, other people have a vision of where your skills fit best and what you are capable of. You have to take a risk and trust their vision.”
For the next decade, Diana took on new challenges and built relationships. When she left Credit Suisse in 2002, Reid established her own strategic advisory firm to assist private real estate finance companies set long-term strategy and recapitalize with new partners. “Many of the companies I had gotten to know through my trading career had grown and were ready to transition to financial institution ownership. It was another puzzle to solve for companies I understood and owners who trusted my expertise.”
In 2007, Diana was in the midst of a corporate sale when she met Bill Demchak, now CEO of PNC. “The head of the real estate business at PNC had announced his retirement, and I was ready for a new challenge.” Diana recognized a culture she respected. “PNC really values teamwork. The team I became part of was smart and creative and wanted to solve problems for customers. I was impressed by the focus on doing what’s best for shareholders, customers, employees, and for the communities. It’s been terrific to be part of this company.”
The Right Time for a Career in Financial Services
It’s clear that the lure of a career in financial services hasn’t abated for Diana over her decades of success. In fact, she thinks that right now is exactly the right time to enter the industry: “It’s an exciting time to be in commercial banking,” she notes. “The business of commercial banking is in the midst of reinvention — for consumers, how do we meet the banking needs of our parents who visit their branch every week as well as our children who manage all of their relationships online? We need to serve different needs in ways that best engage customers with the products and services they need, where and when they need them! And banks have the opportunity to differentiate themselves — whether it’s how we innovate and integrate new technologies or meet new regulatory demands. It’s an era of change, which offers great opportunity.
When not working, Diana enjoys classical music, especially opera. She previously served on the board of The Metropolitan Opera Guild and recently joined the board of the Pittsburgh Opera. Regardless of whether she is in Pittsburgh or traveling for work, she tries to find time to attend classical music events. “Travel has been a big part of my business life for several decades. Even when traveling, I set aside an evening to attend a concert. Classical music speaks to me and restores me.” Diana encourages all women to find something that they are passionate about. “Whether you love to paint, cook or run, put it on your schedule and commit to it. Ultimately, it will benefit both your personal and professional life.”